Red vs. Black, Spring Position Battles:  Linebacker

A position-by-position look at the Texas Tech Red Raiders heading into spring practice. "Classifications" are based on entering school next fall. "Probable Roles" are merely guesses and welcome comments, thoughts and suggestions.

LINEBACKER

Middle

Brian Duncan

Sam Fehoko

Victor Hunter

Height: 6-1 5-11 5-11
Weight: 238 236 256
Classification: Junior Sophomore Senior
Probable Role: Starter Second String Run Defense Specialist

 

Ruffin McNeill has said that he's going to give Sam Fehoko a ton of time this spring to figure out if he's going to be a major player in 2009. Personally, I love Brian Duncan and I think he has a world of potential, especially considering what he did as a sophomore (he did redshirt in 2006) is pretty impressive. I'm a big fan of competition, and when you watched video of Sam Fehoko in high school (which I cannot seem to locate) he was a play-making defensive end that didn't have any responsibility other than to rush up the field. He had ability, and he made plays, but Fehoko's problem was technique and that seems to be his biggest stumbling block thus far. With that being said, this may be where the coaching staff is with the Duncan/Fehoko conundrum. Duncan is technically a very sound player, but he doesn't make a ton of plays, but he's incredibly solid. Fehoko makes plays, but isn't technically sound, or at least not yet.

Victor Hunter is only a run-stopping specialist and goal line player. He's too big and too slow to do much else, which creates liability questions in pass defense. He's very good at what he does, but this is all he is.

Strong

Bront Bird

Tyrone Sonier

Chris Wallace

Height: 6-3 6-2 5-11
Weight: 226 215 208
Classification: Junior Sophomore Senior
Probable Role: Starter Second String Third String

 

I think there are a lot of people that are very high on Bront Bird, but I'm a little cautious. I think he's talented and I think he's the unquestioned starter, but I'm not sure that he's an absolute lock. McNeill mentioned on Tech Talk that Sonier has added 20 pounds, so go ahead and push him up to 235 or so, and from I recall about Sonier, he was also in the mold of a pass-rushing defensive end that made plays, and with the addition of some strength, I think Sonier pushes Bird for playing time next year. Bird's biggest attribute is that he's a big guy that can play the run, but as teams in the Big 12 move towards spread offenses, I think it serves McNeill better if he has options rather than see Bird, who I believe was pushed out at times with a safety or covering a slot receiver. I don't know much about Wallace, other than he had a good spring last year and will probably be just a backup and an emergency plan.

Weak

Marlon Williams

Blake Collier

Julius Howard

Height: 6-0 6-2 6-1
Weight: 224 211 210
Classification: Senior Junior Junior
Probable Role: Starter Second String Third String

 

Much like the other two positions, I see Williams being a guy that can be pushed. He too was oftentimes covering the opposing team's slot receiver and that was not a matchup that I thought favored Texas Tech.  With Collier taking off of all year with the redshirt, I'm hoping that he can play that hybrid safety/linebacker position and be a better option. I know the staff likes Williams and I do too, but the point of all of this is to push a guy that was an incumbent last year. Collier has superior speed and was at safety before being moved to linebacker last year and I'm a huge fan of putting speed out on the field, again as a result of teams going 3 and 4 wide. Howard has all of the athletic ability in the world, but this hasn't translated to significant playing time. Look for Howard to back up most, if not all positions if there's a significant injury. I sort of see him as being a versatile player that could be moved around if needed. 

Feshmen

Dion Chidozie (W)

Brandon Mahoney (S)

James Scott (M)

Height: 6-1 6-2 6-3
Weight: 190 210 220
Classification: Freshman Freshman Freshman
Probable Role: Redshirt Possible Redshirt Needs to Qualify

I believe that there's a good chance that Scott doesn't qualify (I don't know this other than what I've heard) and Mahoney still has some work to do. Scott is an incredibly talented athlete and if he could ever get qualified, or spend a year or two at a JUCO, that could serve him well. Mahoney is one of the players that was originally committed to Oklahoma and I think he's much closer to qualifying than Scott, he still has some work to do, but it's not as much of a stretch. Chidozie is the wildcard and he's got great speed, but needs to put on weight to play at this level. I love his athleticism and McNeill mentioned on Tech Talk that he wants athletes and then he can coach them up.  Chidozie fits that mold. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Competition is the key this spring and although there are three starters returning, the key will be how much, if at all, the second string guys can push the starters.

Thanks to kayakyar for helping out.

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